Transverse myelitis (TM) is a rare neurological disorder caused by inflammation of the spinal cord.
This inflammation can affect the nerve signals, leading to symptoms such as muscle weakness, pain, sensory issues such as tingling or numbness and dysfunction of the bladder and bowel.
Symptoms often develop rapidly, anywhere from several hours to several weeks.
Transverse myelitis can affect people of any age or gender and severity of symptoms and speed of recovery often varies greatly between cases.
The rarity and variable nature of the disease can make diagnosis of the condition challenging.
Diagnosis is based on patient history, physical examination, MRI, lumbar puncture and blood tests while treatment may include high doses of IV corticosteroids.
Around one third of patients will recover from TM with little or no ongoing issues, another third will be left with moderate disabilities and another third will be left with severe disabilities.
A common ongoing effect of TM includes neuropathic pain that may respond poorly to narcotics as well as a degree of bladder or bowel dysfunction.
While there is no cure, symptoms can often subside over time and medications and physiotherapy can help reduce swelling and improve movement.
Support for people with transverse myelitis
Spinal Life offers support for people with transverse myelitis, including access to peer support groups, some specific to TM, along with more general support groups for people with spinal cord damage.
You can find relevant Facebook support groups by searching for ‘Transverse Myelitis’ on the social media platform.
People with TM are also welcome to join the Spinal Life Peer Support Facebook page available here.
The UK Brain and Spine Foundation have also developed a booklet created to help people learn more about TM which you can access here.